When TV One's new original film, When Love Kills: The Falicia Blakely Story premieres on Monday, August 28, the cast, director and producers want the audience to be educated and informed while they are entertained. Based on a popular episode of the network's true crime series, For My Man, the film depicts the true life tragedy of a teen mom in Atlanta who found herself the victim of psychological manipulation and physical abuse at the hands of a man who claimed to love her. Instead, he encouraged her participation in a life of stripping, prostitution, robbery and ultimately, murder - all in the name of love.
"When I was 14, I dropped out of school - a lot of people don't know that. By the age of 16, I was bartending in a strip club, by the age of 20 I was stripping...so I understand how Falicia got there," says film director Tasha Smith, who signed up for the project as her feature-length directorial debut. "By the grace of God, I ended up here, but she ended up in jail for the rest of her life."
Yet, before Falicia was convicted of murder, she was a young girl looking for love and validation in all the wrong places. In an effort to reinforce the film's underlying message that real love doesn't hurt, TV One, in partnership with the National Domestic Violence Hotline, will air a public service announcement during the film presentation.
"This film is a cautionary tale about everything love shouldn't be in our communities," says Lori Hall, TV One SVP of Marketing. "Tasha Smith directs a powerful story that reveals exactly how a teenager can fall victim to a relationship that quickly moves from loving to abusive and unhealthy. We want this film to be a wake-up call for young people and families and we hope it will start a lot of dialogue in homes around the country."
The PSA reveals that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of physical violence by an intimate partner, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Chief Communications Officer Cameka Crawford joined panel discussions at TV One film screenings in Atlanta, New Orleans, New York and Los Angeles to provide the audience with resources to get help if they know someone who may be in an abusive relationship.
"Your instinct may be to 'save' them from the relationship, but it's not that simple. Abuse is about power and control, so one of the most important ways you can help someone in an abusive relationship is to think about how you might empower them to make their own decisions," says Crawford. "You can also offer support by listening without judgment and reassuring them that the abuse is not their fault. If you need help starting the conversation, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline 24/7 at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or visit www.thehotline.org."
Additionally, TV One partnered with Saving Our Daughters, an organization whose mission is to empower teenage girls from multicultural backgrounds through theater, music, film and television, to help overcome many obstacles such as bullying (cyber, gossip, face-to-face), dating abuse, domestic violence and other esteem slayers. Young ladies attended the When Love Kills premieres held in Atlanta, New York and Los Angeles to walk the red carpet with the cast and have a dialogue about real love and self-esteem.
"We are extremely blessed and excited about our new and ground breaking partnership with TV One. We look forward to the positive impact on working together to encourage and change the girls' lives we serve," says Curtis Benjamin, Saving Our Daughters Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer. "TV One's original movie cast, directors and producers of 'When Love Kills' have truly developed a tool for our girls to help create empowering conversations about date abuse, domestic violence and healthy mother and daughter relationships."
Lance Gross, who plays Falicia's abusive and manipulative boyfriend Dino, conducted research and prayed before taking on the role. Gross believes both women and men will see what not to do in relationships and child rearing by viewing this film.
"I want people to learn something from this film because I'm a father," he emphasized. "Just reading this script and participating in this project makes me want to go home and love my daughter even harder, because who knows who the next Falicia Blakely will be."
Still rocked by the experience of undertaking the role, Gross decided to email the real Falicia Blakely in prison and was surprised to receive a response. She thanked Gross and those involved in the film for their willingness to raise awareness against domestic violence.